On Memorial Day, a photograph remembered
By Jack Kintner
Tami Silicio lost a 19-year-old son 10 years ago after what she described as a long struggle with medical complications. It left her with the kind of feeling for other parents who have lost their children that only people who have experienced that kind of pain really know.
She later got a job with a civilian contractor with the U.S. Air Force helping to load and unload cargo planes in Kuwait. When they loaded the coffins of soldiers killed in action in the Iraqi war she was deeply impressed with how carefully the air force personnel handled them.
“They showed real caring, total respect, and it was touching to see,” Silicio said. She, like many of the people she worked with, carried a small digital camera for what she called “memory shots” of the things she did overseas, and thought nothing of making a quick photo of the interior of one of the cargo aircraft lined with flag-draped coffins. “I know I wasn’t the only one to do that,” she said, “and when celebrities like Robin Williams or Hillary Clinton showed up there were cameras all over the place.”
She sent the photo home to her friend Amy Katz, a former roommate, who then sent it along to Barry Fitzsimmons, photo editor of The Seattle Times. After some lengthy discussions about what might happen if the photo was published, given a Bush administration ban on showing the caskets of dead American soldiers being shipped home, the Times eventually published it on the front page of their Sunday, April 18, 2004 edition with Silicio’s permission. She and her new husband were both fired by her civilian employer, Maytag, “on the urging of the Pentagon,” she said.
Silicio said that many people were taking pictures. She feels she was singled out because of the photo’s publication, something she didn’t necessarily intend when she first took the photo.
She has been in Blaine for the last two Memorial Day weekends for the Arlington NW display of markers in Peace Arch Park. She is a part of Veterans for Peace. She isn’t bitter over her treatment, even though she said she’s found it difficult to find work since the incident.
“Obviously, there isn’t room for anything compassionate in a world of evil,” she said as she signed copies of the photo to give away to people.
When asked if there was a charge for them, she indicated a jar that said Veterans for Peace.
“Just make a donation,” she said. “People think I did this for money, but I did it as a photo of compassionate meaning for other parents, like me, who have lost their children and who would appreciate that their remains are being handled respectfully.”